Tag Archives: Jesus Savior

A Spirit Not of Fear but of Power Matthew June 25, 2017 First St Johns

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who trust Jesus and are overcomers said … AMEN!

I’m sure many of you have had this discussion with your parent, to the effect, “But dad I don’t want to because I’m afraid of this person”. The response was to the effect “you have more to be afraid of me, then of aforementioned person.” I’m sure you’ve had the same thoughts in terms of “I don’t want to do this because I’m afraid of the reaction I’m going to get from someone else” and then come to the realization, I’d better be a lot more afraid of what God is going to think or do then the big monster I’m afraid of will do. I was afraid, [Rodney voice] I grew up in a tough neighborhood, the local restaurant only had broken leg of lamb on the menu.[1] On my street, the kids take hubcaps – from moving cars.”

Jesus makes it pretty plain, sure bad things can happen if you get someone in the world angry, but that’s not going to be anything compared to making God angry from failing to be faithful to His will. In fact whenever I’m in that quandary, after all is said and done, when I look back, I realize that the person/ thing/situation that I was afraid of, was nowhere near as big, bad or ugly as I thought. Furthermore, trusting in God usually results in an outcome I never expected, would never planned. I’m not giving you a Harry Potter incantation or Joel Osteen everything’s going to work out because God has a great plan for your life. He does, but not some Osteen formula. It’s according to the only words that matter, Holy Scripture.

Jesus talks about the one who has “endured to the end who will be saved.” While too many “Christians” have a rainbow and unicorn perception of Jesus, as we see in this passage, through the Gospels and particularly the Book of Revelation, to quote another writer: “The Bible teaches Christians to recognize that the world is a battleground, not a playground.”[2] To take Mr Dangerfield’s quotes, we all grow up in a tough neighborhood. We certainly have the assurance that Jesus will be faithful, that when we trust in Him we will be delivered. It might not seem like it, people do die, people do suffer tragedy, or, at least what we perceive as death or tragedy. We know many cases where we might think that someone has been treated unfairly, but what God has lead that person to do in that trial, that tragedy has, in fact, resulted in genuine blessing for that person, for others that they have served, have inspired, have reached. As Christians we know the ultimate tragedy is to be lost for eternity. While we may suffer in this life, and the reality is that we all suffer in one form or another. That we all have a cross to bear, ESV Luke 14:27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” Arthur Just explains: “These are catechumens who have heard the Word, have left family and understand the costs of discipleship. But as they travel with Jesus to Jerusalem, they begin to encounter rejection and persecution…[this] corresponds to the seed that fell on the rock and withered because of lack of moisture, like those who receive the Word with joy but have no roots and fall away in times of temptation, which can include persecution.”[3]

It’s never my intention to, create fear in people. The words we see in the Bible emphasize being aware and faithful. Jesus told His disciples in this passage; “ESV Matthew 10:16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” We are saved, we are protected, we are baptized, we eat the Body of Christ and drink the Blood of Christ, we are very much a part of Him, in the sacraments, in the Keys of the Church, His Body that we are very much a part of. We don’t, ultimately, have anything to fear. The same writer: “The Greek word most often translated “overcomer” stems from the word nike which, according to Strong’s Concordance, means “to carry off the victory. The verb implies a battle.” You probably remember the Nike missile, Nike sports gear. Needless to say in war and in sports, the point is victory. To take the simile a little further, the Nike slogan is “just do it”. I wish we, as Christians, understood that motto in terms of our witness to Christ instead of being fearful of rejection and embarrassment. Embarrassed for Jesus? hmmm, sort of where He says: “ESV Matthew 10:32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” When we are unfaithful, and put our trust in the world, and the things around us, just chose to punt, to give in to the world, Jesus is under no obligation to be faithful to us. If by our lives and our witness we demonstrate that Jesus is not important in our lives, why would we have the idea that we should be important to Jesus? Why should He stand up for us for eternity, when we won’t stand up for Him for just a moment in a world that is so temporary, so fleeting, so transitory? I have seen it so often, I chose not to stand up, I chose not to bravely confront and deal with a fraudulent world, but then expect someone to stand up for me and they are outraged that they’ve been left completely exposed. The world loves to set people up, as false witnesses, as Paul writes “to be slaves to sin … for the end of those things is death” (Rom 6: 20..21)

The real emphasis in the real language Jesus uses over and over again, is very much in terms of one who stays faithful, the one who endures, the one who while they are afraid, still endures. Many have the idea that the “brave man” has no fear going into danger. That would infer a really high level of stupid. I’ve seen plenty of brave men and women, people who’ve had to face actual, physical danger. They are acutely aware of the danger, and they are by no means stupid people. By the same token, they realize that they have to overcome and trust their fear because others are relying on them, trusting them to do what is necessary. As Christians we should always trust Christ in the face of danger. We have the guarantees, we have the lock, we know how the story ends, we are going to feel fear, BUT, we are certainly called to overcome. How do we overcome, do we overcome in our own strength? NO! We know the Holy Spirit is with us to strengthen us in those times when we face any challenge and certainly that includes up to and including death. Our trust is this, that what we do for Christ will never be wasted. Too often people talk about someone they perceive dying prematurely or being seriously injured as waste. They only see the here and now and don’t wait in faith for how Christ will use this. If that person has rejected Christ, has actually wasted their life, then we can see the reason why they might have died. I’m sure you can imagine many who simply wasted what they were given. By the same token those who have endured, stayed strong, overcome the trials that were given and still pointed to Christ as the reason, we certainly know and will witness to others and we know the Holy Spirit will use that to glorify Jesus and bring others to Jesus. The Christian church in China will be the largest church in the entire world in about 15 years. This in spite of horrendous persecution and suffering. Those who suffer are very real witnesses to others of the truth of Jesus’ church, of the Christian church and that it does save and they become Christians because they know that they have the promises of Christ of their resurrection to eternal, real life, life and life more abundant! The world cannot come close to such a promise, but takes those who fail to persevere, who will not stand in the strength of Jesus and the world toys with those people, gives them empty promises, kicks them to the curb and walks away laughing. “Overcomers are promised that they will eat from the Tree of Life (2:7), be unharmed by the second death (2:11), eat from hidden manna and be given a new name (2:17), have authority over the nations (2:26), be clothed in white garments (3:5), be made a permanent pillar in the house of God (3:12), and sit with Jesus on His throne (3:21). Jesus warned that holding fast to Him would not be easy, but it would be well worth it.”[4]

Jeremiah’s words have to lift you and inspire you, the promise of who God is and what He will most certainly do: “ESV Jeremiah 20:11 But the LORD is with me as a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble; they will not overcome me. They will be greatly shamed, for they will not succeed. Their eternal dishonor will never be forgotten.”

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom

He has risen! He has risen indeed! Hallelujah!

[1] source: http://www.jokes4us.com/peoplejokes/comedianjokes/rodneydangerfieldjokes.html

[2]

[3] Arthur Just Concordia Commentary Luke 9-24 p 581

[4] https://www.gotquestions.org/Bible-overcomer.html0

Passion for Jesus, desire and drive to serve Him and others for Him

In  a business context I can understand the following quote in Forbes: “They should be doers, not managers. You need people who are hungry to prove themselves and to help you win by feeding off your passion and their experience.” (Forbes Magazine Sept 7, 2015 p 39)

I’m taking this quote a little out of context, but it really is applicable to the church, especially in terms of “passion”. We have the ultimate Savior of the universe, who in His “passion” died for us in order for us to have the assurance of eternal life in the New Earth, the Resurrection. Frankly, Christians, the church, the whole Christian community really does need to act in that passion. Now I’m not talking about phoney Pentecostalism “passion”, just a show put on to convince others that you are somehow singled out by the Holy Spirit and a show more for your own pleasure then genuine worship of God. I am talking about passion in doing what we are called to serve Jesus. An intensity, a desire, more of a passion that a man would express, pushing for what is important, having the integrity to stand up for what is right. That certainly is missed in the church, we really see passion in terms of what we want to please us. This is not what we are called to do in Jesus. As I said, that passion, in a business sense, is how to we make this sale, how do we achieve our quarterly goals, how do we serve best those who are stakeholders in what we do, how do we make the best product or provide the best service, truly believing in what you do.

Too often in the church of the last century passion has been more in terms of what will be “pleasing”, entertaining, having people leave with a big smile on their face because the pastor told them, no matter how sinful and unrepentant the person is, that they’re just fine and God really is just a wishy-washy people pleaser. We know that it’s not true. God expects us to live and act in Christian integrity. He expects us to step up to serve Him. I preached on Elijah, 1 Kings 19, this Sunday. Elijah was certainly put through a lot to serve God. I am sure that for too many who call themselves “Christian”, if they were called on by God to do what Elijah was asked to do, well, they’d pull the usual phoney move and decide that they need to go to another church.

These “people-pleasers” of the last century have really set the church up for failure. Taking the easy way out, being managers instead of leaders. Making sure the numbers are still up, but not doing the job with the integrity required in order to proclaim Jesus and what He wants in His church. This sort of “country-club” type of “Christian”, everything’s pretty, aesthetically pleasing, pleasant to the ear, then we go on with our regular life, church worship having essentially no impact. These “managers” are not there to prove themselves in Jesus, they’re there to make sure that the boat isn’t rocked. If no one gets mad and leaves then they’ve succeeded. Really?! seems to me that in John 6:66 (interesting that this verse should have this number, “Then Jesus said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to Me unless the Father has granted it to him.”66 From that time on, many of His disciples turned back and no longer accompanied Him. 67 So Jesus asked the Twelve, “Do you want to leave too?” 68 Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life.…” Hmmm, Jesus had a whole lot of people walk out on Him! Case could even be made that he was down to much fewer at the end. Only about 4 were with Him at the Cross. But Peter, John, Mary, a remnant of disciples knew what was genuine, had integrity and they stuck with Jesus even though it was obviously not the popular thing to do anymore.

There are times and places when you do have to “manage”, make sure things get done. Pastors do have to be managers sometimes, there is church business they have to attend to. But our Savior was passionate for us, He wasn’t there to be a people pleaser, and He let a whole lot of people know that. We pastors cannot be in our positions to just entertain or indulge, we are called on to proclaim Jesus and to be His disciples and all that means. To be hungry for Jesus, for His Kingdom and for the eternal life in the resurrection. If we are hungry for that, shouldn’t we be instilling that hunger in others? Too often pastors are simply about lulling people into a nice, warm feeling of security. We should have a passion, meaning acting with integrity, striving to proclaim Jesus at every point, a passion to do our best to help anyone we know, to know true life and true salvation in Jesus. To truly read and study His revelation, the Bible. To help others to genuinely present Jesus to all they know, really a manly passion of what is right and truly salutary in Jesus and to stand under the stress that people in the world and yes, in the church will put you under to compromise with the world and divide your loyalty between the world and the church of Christ. We look for those opportunities to serve to help in a material way, but to remember that we are not social workers, that we are always first and foremost to serve the Creator, Sustainer, Lord and Savior of the universe, to point people to Him so they will know true life in the baptized life of Jesus and will move from their and act accordingly. Anything else is indulgence and people pleasing and not doing anyone any good. It’s managing, but the result is into condemnation and not challenging them and lifting them up which is passion and Christian leadership. What we all need to have “life and life more abundant.”

How should that look at your workplace? How should that look in every area of your life? Are we truly about church being one thing and then as soon as we’re out the door, on to the more important(?) things. Or are we men of integrity truly striving to serve our family, our church, our vocation and always, most importantly our Lord and Savior, with true passion, strength and integrity.

All are welcome to talk about this more Wednesdays 10am, the coffee shop at the corner of W King and Beaver Sts in downtown York, Pa. The church is at 140 W King, you’re welcome to park right behind, walk about half a block to the coffee shop. I always buy first timers their coffee.

Temptation Eyes James 1: 12-18 First St Johns Feb 22, 2015

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who have remained steadfast under trial said … AMEN!

In the early 1970’s, one of the first songs that I remember as a teen, ironically, was by a group called the Grass Roots, titled “Temptation Eyes”. It was a hard driving rock song, which, really characterizes temptation. For me, temptation is sort of this hard driving, almost drilling into you this desire, you just have to have it. The lyrics, for a secular song, really do give you a sense of temptation. “She’s got something that moves my soul…”[1] A secular song talking about something that reaches right down into the soul. This temptation that is so compelling is moving this singer with a hard rock rhythm.

Have no doubt that when Jesus was being tempted by Satan, Jesus was feeling temptation that was drilling down into Him. The desert is not a welcoming place, it’s hot, it’s dry (unless of course it’s snowing and freezing rain in York, then it’s almost inviting.) temptation for shelter from the sun, for cool, refreshing water, for food, is compelling in the desert. But as the writer of Hebrews tells us: “For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. This passage assures us that Jesus did suffer. He felt temptation deep down. He knows that we are tempted and He knows that temptation can steer us to things that aren’t good for us, that take our eyes off of Him who is our hope and promise. But also because of this we know that we can trust Him.

Too often we deal with things in our lives that reach down into our soul. Others will try to give us comfort and assurance, “oh it’s nothing”, we can stay strong and cope. It’s a big difference between men and women. There are things women contend with, that they are tempted by, that as men we just don’t get. We just cannot empathize with the compulsion they feel. And certainly vice versa. We can tell each other nice things, and think that we are helping, but too often we really aren’t and may be aggravating the situation. However, with Jesus, based on James’ words and of the writer of Hebrews, we are assured that Jesus understands. Too often we get an image of God as angry and vengeful, just waiting to strike us down when we are even so much as tempted. That is God to many, to those who are not saved in Jesus. But we, who are saved in Jesus, who are born again as new men and women, saved in Christ, we have a Savior who understands, who wants to help us push back against temptation before we are overwhelmed and give in. Temptation is not a sin, Mark tells us that Jesus was tempted (Mark 1:13), we certainly know that Jesus did not sin. But for us, who are weak in ourselves, it is much too easy for that temptation to push us into something that is sin. James writes: “…each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” (Jas 1:14-15) Temptation is all around us, the Ben and Jerry’s you know is in the freezer, anger, vengeance, doing things that hurt you and someone else. Turn on the television, computer, books, magazines, its everywhere. When we give in to sin, we come up with excuses and rationalizations that push Jesus away and make that sin an idol, and then we cross the line and commit sin.

Our Savior understands that, He’s not standing over us just waiting for us to make that wrong move, that gotcha. He has been there, in this time of Lent we remember His time in the desert. From that Jesus can relate to those who are His, because, as the writer of Hebrews pens: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are,…” (Heb 4:15), but then goes on to say, “yet without sin.”

Jesus knows what confronts us, He does relate to us. Even more, if we let Him, the Holy Spirit will reach down and strengthen us. We often think of that sin as a treat, we pooh-pooh things like over indulging in food. It’s not healthy for us, it’s weakening our body, it makes us less able to serve Jesus and our brothers and sisters in Jesus. Sure in moderation, but in this day and age? We are not a moderate people. Have you seen Ben and Jerry’s concoction, formulated by Jimmy Fallon, it puts me into a diabetic coma just looking at it.

It does make you wonder, why Satan would even try with Jesus. Satan knows as well as anyone how this is going to end up. But he wants us to fail. He wants us to quit. Clearly Jesus had come into the world to mess up Satan’s plans and schemes. You can’t expect Satan to just twiddle his thumbs while Jesus undoes all the evil and sin of the world. You can’t expect him to give up, he wants to unravel the world, he’s condemned, he wants everyone condemned. So he had to push back against Jesus. But Satan isn’t normally over the top, he’s not usually in your face. He is usually subtle, continually trying to undermine us. He’s putting temptation in front of you so that you will quit and give in. You will stop caring about what Jesus wants and only focus on the object of your desire.

Writing about our vocations in life; work, family, church, community; “Wingren says that ‘Temptation in vocation is the devil’s attempt to get man out of his vocation” (121) Dr Gene Veith goes on to write: The devil wants you to quit. He wants you to quit your job. He wants you to get a divorce. He wants you to stop doing things for that ungrateful bunch at church. He wants you to tell your kids to ‘Do whatever you want to do. I give up.’ He wants you to leave that congregation because it’s nothing but trouble.”[2] Is that not the world we see today? Left and right we see this giving into temptation. Not just the obvious temptations, lust, gluttony, greed, anger etc. The more subtle temptation of giving up. Why try? The government will provide for you, some relative will provide for you, the church, should, provide for you. Why try at work? People are just mean to you there. Why try in your marriage? If someone doesn’t make you happy, dump ‘em. Why try with your kids, they’re just going to do what they want. Why try with your church? The pastor is hopeless, nothing good is happening and of course, we know that the church is just full of hypocrites anyway.

Yea, the quitter mentality we see in the world today. You can give into the world, you can let Satan lead you away and give into the temptation that he waves in front of you to quit, to give up. Jesus could have quit out in the desert, just packed it in, “hey, not my problem, they’re going to have to deal with this temptation stuff themselves.” He didn’t! He was faithful to you, to make sure you had that hope and promise that you have a Savior who will not quit on you. He gives us the faith to continue to trust in Him, but we just go ahead and chuck it? Then what? Revelation chapters 2 and 3, Jesus is telling the readers that they will face terrible tribulation. Jesus promises the one who overcomes: “The one who conquers and keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations… He will be clothed in white garments and I will never blot out his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels…Hold fast so that no one will seize your crown… I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God…” Read chapters 2 and 3 in the Book of Revelation. He warns us, but the promises He makes to those who are faithful, are eternal and overwhelming.

The great thing is, Jesus doesn’t leave us to our own strength to overcome temptation and sin. We know we have His promise to defend us, to protect us, to give us the faith we need. But how sad is it, when He is standing there protecting us and we just run away, concerned only about ourself? Mandisa is a great Christian rock singer, these lyrics are from a recent song:

“Everybody’s been down Hit the bottom, hit the ground, Ooh, you’re not alone
Just take a breath, don’t forget, Hang on to His promises, He wants You to know

You’re an overcomer, Stay in the fight ‘til the final round, You’re not going under
‘Cause God is holding you right now[3]

Be an overcomer, don’t give into temptation. The lyrics of the Grass Roots song are instructive: “But she lets me down everytime, can’t make her mind she’s no one’s lover…” Temptation will always let you down, will fail you. But Christ will always strengthen you and save you. You can continue to deal with temptation or be an overcomer.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.

[1] Grass Roots  “Temptation Eyes”

[2] Gene Veith “God at Work” quoting Wingren “Luther on Vocation”

[3] Mandisa “Overcomer”

Live discussion on KFUO radio on John Gospel 1:19-34

You can listen on live streaming at http://www.kfuo.org we will be talking about John the Baptist proclaiming the beginning of Jesus’ ministry “behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” John the Baptist the last of the Old Testament prophets. The prophets were preparing the world for Jesus, the disciples would proclaim who Jesus is and is the promised Messiah, the Savior of the world. Please listen, let me know what you think .

You can call in too, at 800-730-2727. Come on, call in and give me your best shot, it will be great.

The Dying Word

First Saint Johns

April 9, 2014

This is from Concordia Publishiing House “Words of Life from the Cross” series

SERMON: THE DYING WORD (LUKE 23:46)

The sixth word is Jesus’ dying word, a word of committal, a word of trust. His dying words are faithful, full of trust in His Father, trusting that in His death His Father will receive Him in loving arms just as the father of the prodigal received his son with open and welcoming arms. Here again is the paradox of faith. Jesus had cried out in abandonment, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” and yet now He cries out in faith, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit!”
Isn’t that how it is with the life of faith? God seems so distant at times, especially those times of darkness and woe, those dark nights and days, and yet He stands ever near to embrace us in those strong, loving, fatherly arms. Jesus trusted His Father, and He did it on behalf of all of us. His trust is complete and unwavering. Though He dies, yet He trusts. Though He suffers, yet He trusts. Though the Father is silent and hidden, yet He trusts.
But take note of something—this dying word is not sighed or whispered. This is not a weak word of resignation by a man who is overcome by death. No. He shouts this word in a loud voice. He summons His strength and shouts it to the highest heavens. He wants the whole world to hear what He has to say. He is the Son of the Father, begotten and beloved from all eternity. He trusts His Father’s mandate that sent Him on this mission to the cross.
Jesus is not overcome by death. Rather, He overcomes death by dying. “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55). Jesus has taken the sting of death and the venom of the Law into His own flesh, shed His own blood, and now He cries out in victory and triumph as He commits His life to the Father who sent Him. This strong word of the cross cuts through your doubt and disbelief. Adam’s death is conquered by this Second Adam’s death. Adam hearkened to the doubting word of the devil and became a transgressor, plunging the world into the chaos of sin. But this Second Adam, the new head of redeemed humanity, holds true to His Father and will not waver even as He dies. His life is in the hands of the Father.
With His final breath, Jesus shows Himself to be the faithful Son. Where we have failed, He has succeeded. Where we have sinned, He has proven sinless. Where we doubt, He remains strong.
Being self-absorbed and self-oriented, the old Adam in us resists this surrender. It fights like crazy against the loving embrace of the Father, like a small child throwing a temper tantrum who will not be held. We want to be in control, we want to be in power. We resent any notion that we sit not in the driver’s seat, but in the passenger’s seat of our lives. Like so many drowning victims, we think we can swim to shore ourselves. We do not need a lifeguard; we even resist the attempts to save us. We want it all on our own terms.
You know how it is in your own life—the bargaining, the denial, the transactions—anything but letting go and leaving to God our Father to hold us in safety. Jesus does it. On the cross, He entrusts His life, His mission, His death, everything to His Father. “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.”
The words are from Psalm 31. The psalms are the hymnbook of the living and the dying. Jesus takes up the words of David on His lips, for they are His words, too, wrought by the Spirit of Christ in David.
In you, O LORD, do I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
in Your righteousness deliver me!
Incline Your ear to me;
rescue me speedily!
Be a rock of refuge for me,
a strong fortress to save me!
For You are my rock and my fortress;
and for Your name’s sake You lead me and guide me;
You take me out of the net they have hidden for me,
for You are my refuge.
Into Your hand I commit my spirit;
You have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.
David, surrounded by his enemies, commits his life into the hand of God. Jesus, the greater Son of David, hanging in the darkness with the burden of humanity’s sin hanging heavy upon Him, commits His life to His Father. In committing Himself into His Father’s hands, He entrusts us as well, gathering all into His death that we might be gathered to Him in our death.
In Luther’s day, people were quite intentional about writing down their last thoughts and confession. What you said at your death was what would be remembered about you. This is Jesus’ last word of His being humbled unto death in obedience to the Law. This is the last word of His work that began with His Baptism where His Father voiced His approval over His beloved Son. Now at the end of His mission, His work completed, the Scriptures fulfilled, the redemption of the world accomplished, He closes His eyes and breathes His last breath with a faithful, trusting word.
Remember these words when it comes time for your last words and make them your “now I lay me down to sleep” prayer. Father, into Your hands I commend my spirit. Say them each night, as the Small Catechism instructs, in case you should die before you wake. Hold the cross of Jesus before your closing eyes, and rest in peace and joy, knowing that death has been swallowed up in the victory of Jesus’ death.

For Your last triumphant cry, for Your faithful trust to the end, for Your final breath of the old creation, for Your entrusting Yourself and us to Your Father, we give You thanks and praise, most holy Jesus. Amen.

Please cllick on the following link for a audio recorded version of this sermon